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COP25 climate summit: what happened during the first week?

Extinction Rebellion activists stage a rally in solidarity with Amazon indigenous groups outside the COP25 summit in Madrid. Photograph: Rodrigo Jimenez/EPA

What happened in week one?

The COP25 climate talks in Madrid may have officially opened on Monday 2 December, but they only really started on Friday evening. That was when Greta Thunberg arrived to join a 500,000-strong march through the centre of Madrid, demanding that world leaders listen.

The young activist said that she, and the millions who have marched and protested around the world in the last two years, had “achieved nothing” because greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise...

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The island nation with a novel way to tackle climate change

Fisherman Darryl Green welcomes the restrictions

On board Darryl Green’s small fishing boat, just off the island of Praslin in the Seychelles, the water is so clear we can see the seabed. Brightly coloured fish swim around the hull. “You know at my age I’ve seen the fish size decrease dramatically,” the fisherman reminisces. He’s on board his boat with his young grandson in tow.

“If as fishermen, we do not take responsibility for our fish stocks, who’s going to do it? If we don’t start somewhere then in the future we’re going to be very hard pushed to find fish to feed our children.”

Mr Green has been fishing his local bay for decades – but not any more. He’s set up a project with his fellow fishermen to voluntarily stop fishing here for six months of the year, hoping that this will allow fish stocks to replenish.

“This is our office,” ...

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World’s Oceans Are Losing Oxygen Rapidly, Study Finds

Dead sardines in low oxygen seas

The world’s oceans are gasping for breath, a report issued Saturday at the annual global climate talks in Madrid has concluded. The report represents the combined efforts of 67 scientists from 17 countries and was released by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. It found that oxygen levels in the world’s oceans declined by roughly 2 percent between 1960 and 2010. The decline, called deoxygenation, is largely attributed to climate change, although other human activities are contributing to the problem. One example is so-called nutrient runoff, when too many nutrients from fertilizers used on farms and lawns wash into waterways.

The decline might not seem significant because, “we’re sort of sitting surrounded by plenty of oxygen and we don’t think small losses of oxygen a...

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Taking marine conservation by storm

Since winning the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Young Champions of the Earth prize 12 months ago, Better Blue founder Miao Wang has taken China’s diving community by storm.

Her Better Blue foundation is committed to enabling more people to learn to interact with the oceans scientifically through shaping a more responsible and stronger diving industry.

The four major fields of Better Blue include marine citizen science, marine public education, industry development support and endangered species and habitat protection.

Better blue builds capacity within diving communities by holding events to raise awareness about marine conservation and through education programmes for divers.

Now, Better Blue has fast-tracked its progress to become one of China’s top ranking marine non-governmental ...

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Climate change: Greenhouse gas concentrations again break records

Sunny day in the arctic

Atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases once again reached new highs in 2018. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) says the increase in CO2 was just above the average rise recorded over the last decade. Levels of other warming gases, such as methane and nitrous oxide, have also surged by above average amounts.

Since 1990 there’s been an increase of 43% in the warming effect on the climate of long lived greenhouse gases.

The WMO report looks at concentrations of warming gases in the atmosphere rather than just emissions.

The difference between the two is that emissions refer to the amount of gases that go up into the atmosphere from the use of fossil fuels, such as burning coal for electricity and from deforestation.

Concentrations are what’s left in...

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NOAA expands seafloor protection off West Coast

More than 140,000 square miles of seafloor along the West Coast will be protected from bottom trawling under a plan finalized by NOAA today.

Conservation groups have long opposed bottom-trawl fishing gear, in which weighted nets are dragged to catch fish living near the seafloor. They say it damages the habitat, endangering rocky reefs, sponge beds and deep-sea corals, among other things.

The rule will take effect Jan. 1, NOAA said in a notice published in today’s Federal Register.

Today’s action caps nearly a decade of work for conservationists, NOAA, local fishery managers and fishermen. The Pacific Fishery Management Council first approved the plan on a unanimous vote in April 2018.

Officials with the conservation group Oceana said the rule would more than double the amount of seafloor ...

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3 Ways Canada Is Protecting Its Ocean

Canada has the world’s longest shoreline, one that borders the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans. The country also has a diverse population, many parts of which have centuries-old traditions centered around life by the sea. In part due to these factors, the country is creating a culturally inclusive approach to marine protection that could serve as a model for other nations that serve such a wide range of stakeholders.

This approach is evident off the Pacific coastline of British Columbia, where the nutrient-rich North Pacific Ocean current runs through rocky archipelagos, kelp forests, and deep fjords that are home to great temperate forests and the Coast Salish Indigenous peoples...

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The Surprise Middleman in the Illegal Shark Fin Trade: The USA

Authorities in Hong Kong intercepted some questionable cargo three years ago—a rather large shipment of shark fins that had originated in Panama. Shark fins are a hot commodity among some Asian communities for their use in soup, and most species are legally consumed in Hong Kong, but certain species are banned from international trade due to their extinction risk. And wouldn’t you know it: this confiscated shipment contained nearly a ton of illegal hammerhead fins.

But all that hammerhead contraband should never have made it to China in the first place. Because after the cargo left Panama, it made a stop in Houston, where trade in shark fins of any species, endangered or not, is forbidden...

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Attenborough: World ‘changing habits’ on plastic

The world is beginning to tackle the threat of plastic waste, according to the renowned broadcaster Sir David Attenborough.

“I think we’re all shifting our behaviour, I really do,” Sir David said in an interview with the BBC.

Describing plastic pollution as “vile” and “horrid”, he said there was growing awareness of the damage it can do.

“I think we are changing our habits, and the world is waking up to what we’ve done to the planet,” he said.

Sir David was speaking as he and the BBC’s Natural History Unit (NHU) were announced as the winners of the prestigious Chatham House Prize for their Blue Planet II series of documentaries.

Chatham House, a foreign affairs think-tank based in London, awards the prize to people or organisations making a significant contribution to improving internation...

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Corals Got Frisky as Great Barrier Reef Spawns

Over the weekend corals from across the reef mass spawned:

The Great Barrier Reef exploded with life over the weekend thanks to the annual mass coral spawning and early reports suggest it was the biggest event in recent years. The coral spawning, which typically occurs on the Reef in the week following the November full moon, sees coral polyps simultaneously release egg and sperm bundles into the ocean for fertilisation giving rise to millions of next-generation coral babies. Reef Bio Research Manager at Quicksilver Port Douglas, Russel Hore, said coral spawning is a significant event for the reef.

“It is vitally important that it occurs to get genetic diversity across the corals,” he said.

“It also allows for species distribution around the reef, because corals can’t walk around so this is the best way different corals can move around th...

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